Remembrance Day in Calais
Today, standing at the war memorial in Parc Richelieu in Calais, I noticed that a group of four refugees had come to watch the remembrance service with local people and veterans.
At the end of the ceremony, residents and veterans mingled a bit, and the four guys stayed, just looking at some soldiers on horseback. It really struck me how peacefully and calmly the ex-soldiers and refugees got on in each other’s presence, when anti-refugee campaigners would love us to see them as opposed to each other.
Of course you could say well, it was a special occasion, but maybe that’s the point. When we come together to think about the sacrifices made for decency and fairness, we instinctively act decently and fairly to each other.
Thinking back on that moment this morning, it’s tempting to contrast that decent behaviour with the conduct of some of our politicians.
Last night a French TV news programme featured an interview with a former member of the Polish resistance, Wanda Traczyk-Stawska. She was talking about the refugees trapped on the Polish border, and arguing that on the eve of November 11, European leaders should be remembering the ideals of decency and democracy that our forebears fought for.
Most refugees are fleeing the enemies of democracy and decency; the very ideals that WWII veterans fought and died to uphold. And yet even as we honour those veterans, the UK government is pushing through parliament their nefarious anti-refugee bill – a bill that will not only deny refugees the right to come to the UK, but increase the risk to their lives if they try. Surely, on today of all days, it’s clear that this just can’t be right?